New Year, New Knitter!

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Long time, no post. The last couple of months of 2015 were filled with sickness and a whole lot of end-of-semester-crazytimes, but some good things, too. Like, for example, the fact that there are now TWO knitters in my household!

Costume girl knits. She's really quite good! (We helped clear out a room at her school this morning and she found this hat and got to keep it.)
(Look how she holds her yarn like a total pro!)

 

M has been asking me to teach her how to knit for almost as long as she’s been able to talk, and I’d been telling her, “maybe when you’re 4” all along. Well, guess who turned 4 on Thanksgiving Day this year? I made good on my promise, and for her birthday, I gave her a set of Madtosh Unicorn Tails in her favorite colors, along with a spool knitter:

She got a spool knitter and some unicorn tails from me. Wish me luck - she's been begging be to teach her about knitting for almost 2 years now, and I told her we could try when she was 4. I keep my promises! :)

 

She set about learning to make i-cord pretty quickly…

Spool-knitting! I practiced a bit and then gave her a lesson and she's doing pretty ok!

 

…but complained to me that it wasn’t “REAL” knitting. Kiddo wanted needles, not pegs! Grandma came through on that front, and gave her a set of size 10 needles for Solstice. I was a little skeptical that she’d be able to use them (I mean, she JUST turned 4 – that’s really early!), but she picked it up surprisingly quickly that very day:

She's knitting!!! She wants to knit a scarf for Grandma Barb. She can do about 7 stitches in a row before her hands get tired and she asks me to take over.

 

You know what the sweetest thing is, though? She decided that her first project would be a (garter stitch) scarf for Grandma! She helped me pick out some yarn from my stash (a dark green somewhat variegated Cascade Pastaza), and I cast on stitches for her, and have been helping her from time to time. The scarf is about 6″ long at this point, and probably about 80% my knitting and 20% M’s knitting, but she’s getting better at doing more and more stitches in a row before her hands get tired.

M has also helped me design a new pullover for her to wear (the yarn is Beaverslide’s 2-ply Sport/Sock weight, which I adore):

Maddy helped me design a sweater for her, and I cast on today! Top-down set-in sleeves, thick red/thin pink stripe body with pockets, pink sleeves with red elbow patches. This is gonna be AWESOME! Yarn is Beaverslide Sport/Sock.

 

I’m using Elizabeth Doherty’s Top-Down set-in sleeve approach, and the plan we drew up involves a striped (wide dark red stripes with thin pink heather stripes), slightly A-line body, with solid (pink heather) sleeves, contrasting (dark red) elbow-patches, and of course, POCKETS. I’d been wanting to try out the techniques in the Doherty book anyway, and top-down has the wonderful benefit of try-on-ability:

So far, so good! I'm kind of in love with top-down knitting for its try-on-ability.

 

I’m actually quite a bit further along than this at this point – I’ve already knit past the pockets and am almost ready to do the bottom hem. I came up with (I mean, I doubt it’s truly original, but I made it up as I went) a neat way of adding pockets when knitting top-down sweaters, which I used on a tiny top-down version of the babyStripes! cardigan that I knit for one of the ministers at my UU church (I should write up a post about that cardigan! And maybe actually finish the pattern so that other people can knit them too!). Anyway, I used that method on M’s new sweater and gave the pockets a pink lining and they’re awesome.

I think this sweater is going to be SO great, and I kinda want to make myself one. (M also wants me to make myself one, because she loves our matching sweaters – I wonder how long that will remain true?). I’d probably end up using Cascade 220, but I’m so madly in love with the fabric created by the Beaverslide yarn that I might even be willing to knit a me-sized sweater at 6sts/inch. But I’m very seriously trying to minimize yarn purchases and knit from stash as much as possible this year (this shouldn’t actually be HARD – I have a ridiculous stash!) and am not sure I actually have appropriate amounts of TWO colors of either of those two yarns, so we’ll just have to see. Though I suppose getting a couple of skeins of contrast color yarn with a known and soon-to-be-completed project in mind is not such a big stash-crime.

My other goal for the year, since I’m on that note, is to actually get my backlog of patterns written up/finalized/published. I’ve not been able to move as quickly on them as I’d’ve wanted to these past few years because, you know, parenting and finishing a Ph.D and starting a full-time faculty job and all that, but I really want them out there. I’m just a bit torn on how to do it, because I’m noticing that I basically have quite a few parent-child matching sets in mind (including, possibly, this pullover I’m currently knitting for M and the hypothetical one for me, but also the Stripes! cardigans, the garter rib cardigans, a kid’s version of Sullivan and also a tunic based on that same nupp pattern, that garter-yoked/kangaroo pocket pullover I knit for M awhile back plus a grown-up version, perhaps a re-release of Vahtralehed as a top-down cardigan with a matching kid’s one, the Curvilinear set of hat/mitten patterns for kids and adults, and a few other things that I have in my little design notebook) and it seems like they could be a book or collection or something but I have no idea how to make that actually happen, logistically. Basically, on the designing front, I’m great at coming up with stuff and figuring out how to knit it, and absolutely horrendous on the more entrepreneurial/self-promotion/logistical stuff. Oh, and also kinda horrible at the “knitting things up in a timely manner” front, because while I’m a pretty fast knitter, this ain’t my full time gig! I’m open to any and all advice on what to do with these design ideas my brain keeps generating.

things i make for maddy: octopus costume!

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Happy (now belated) Halloween from Octopus Girl!

Octopus girl wore her octopus-button sweater, too :)

We actually didn’t end up going trick-or-treating on ACTUAL Halloween, because I had a migraine that day and went to bed right after dinner (and then slept straight through until 7:30am the next morning, with a whole extra hour due to the time change – if ever there’s a time to rest off a migraine, the end of DST is it!). But the previous weekend, we took M (along with, it seemed, every other child between 1 and 12 in the entire greater ROC area) to the Genesee Country Village for an early “trick or treat” event, and she got to frolic about as her cephalopod alter-ego, “Octopus Girl”.

Octopus girl goes trick-or-treating at Genesee Country Village.

I couldn’t be any more thrilled with how well it turned out, especially since I was utterly flying by the seat of my pants, with a limited amount of fleece (the leftovers from M’s superhero cape, last year). It took an absolute marathon of sewing on a borrowed machine (hooray for neighbor-friends!), but it all worked out! It’s the first hood I’ve ever sewn, and I drafted the pattern for it myself (loosely using M’s hooded jacket as a guide). I googled “octopus eyes” to get a sense for what their eyes look like (the answer: really creepy!) and I’m just tickled with how well my fleece version of them came out. M insisted on having “sucker pads”, which I made by cutting out little circles (well, more accurately, “circle-ish shapes” – I was getting pretty tired of cutting fleece by that point!) of red fleece, the same color as the backs of the tentacles, and then sewed them on with zig-zag top-stitching. For how sloppy they are if you look closely, they work awfully well from a distance!

M had an absolute blast at the Genesee Country Village. She didn’t quite “get” trick-or-treating, but she had a lot of fun trying out mini-golf for the first time:

Octopus girl tries mini-golf.

You’ll of course notice that she wore her garter rib cardigan with the octopus buttons…the perfect completion to her “Octopus Girl” disguise :) I swear I’m planning to get that cardigan pattern out to test-knitters soon; this has just been such an intensely busy semester (especially now that M’s doing violin and swim) that I’ve not been able to find time.

One last photo to end this post…it turns out I made the hood oversized enough that *I* can be Octopus Girl, too!

Look who else can be an octopus! :)

Hope everyone’s November is off to a good start!

what i did on my way home from rhinebeck

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What I did on the way home from Rhinebeck. (A hat, from my soon-to-be-released pattern, for my friend's son. Just making chin ties, then I can mail it off!)

My dear friend Kris, without whom I don’t know how I would’ve survived those first few months after M was born, asked me if I could knit up a hat for her little boy J like the ones I’d knit for M and her cousins, so of course I said “yes!”. I had her send me J’s measurements (she gave me very helpful feedback on the draft of the pattern, whose instructions for measuring were a bit confusing!), and then pick out the color of Malabrigo Worsted that she wanted and have it sent to me. She chose “Glazed Carrot”, which is an incredibly rich shade of orange. (She also snuck in a skein of “Bobby Blue”, which is my favorite Malabrigo blue, as a “thank you” – K knows me well!). The way to Rhinebeck was consumed by sewing on buttons and sewing blanket squares together, but that left the return trip open for yarn-winding and hat-knitting, so I packed the skein in my car bag. M really enjoyed “helping” me wind the ball (mostly by insisting to “check” it and pet it every few minutes):

Quality control check from my backseat assistant :)

Once the yarn was all wound up, I cast on. The hat is knit top-down, so it looks like this after a few rows:

Hat beginnings.

By the time we made it home, the hat was almost finished! (There’s a reason my first name for the pattern was “car trip hat” – you can knit the whole hat in the time it takes to drive to Rhinebeck from Rochester, NY). Kris had requested i-cord chin ties, because J’s at the age where he likes to yank hats off his head, so once I’d finished the i-cord bind-off, I picked up 3 stitches from the back side of said bind-off, and created an i-cord from there:

Closeup of chin tie attachment.

It looks very nice from the right side:

Closeup of i-cord bindoff and chin tie

I can’t decide whether I should put instructions in the pattern for adding i-cord chin ties. It’s so easy to do that probably folks can figure it out themselves (after all, I just described how to do it here in this post – I’m not so good at the “keeping things under wraps” part of designing, eh?), and I’m trying to keep the hat and mitten patterns to one page each, though that may be pushing it.

i-cording away.

I’m always torn on what warrants a mention in a pattern (or even what merits a pattern at all), because I’m the sort of knitter who likes to figure stuff out and modify things (and is confident in doing so), and so sometimes I see patterns for things that I’m like “who needs a pattern for that??”, but then those patterns sell well, so what do I know? I just don’t know what people look for in patterns, since I’m not a big user of them, myself. My preference as a pattern writer is to be a teacher, and include information about “how to” and “why” whenever possible, but that leads to long patterns, which I know not everyone loves, and which definitely are a no-go when it comes to anything outside of self-publishing.

Anyway, the point of this rambling is to say that, assuming this hat fits little J, I’m just about ready to finalize the pattern for self-publishing. I think. There’s a teeny part of me that wants to knit one up in SHELTER and see if I could publish it through Brooklyn Tweed or something, but…I dunno. What say you all, dear readers?

Rhinebeck 2015

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She's teaching me how to dance like she does :)

It’s hard to believe that this was M’s FOURTH time coming with us to Rhinebeck, but it was! Oh, how she’s grown…from this:

madrigal: 47 weeks

to this:

Madrigal and her Monster

to this:

somebody didn't want to cooperate

to that dancin’ fool in the photo at the top of this post! While it is not very easy to “do Rhinebeck” with an often sleep-deprived and therefore grouchy (because hotel sleeps = hard!) kiddo in tow, I am so, so glad that I get to share this part of my life with my daughter.

Poor sleepy baby!

I don’t think I could ask for a more wool-loving child…

Happy kiddo with her pan flute.

…who sported no fewer than 5 different handknit items from mama (her hat and mittens, her cowl, and her new sweater and blanket, both of which I finished on the drive down from Rochester!) at Rhinebeck, where, just like last year, my girl was ROCKIN’ OUT to that pan-flute band! She was so, so happy to get her very own pan flute!

Maddy gets a pan-flute of her very own

She loved getting to frolic in the leaves under the “made-famous-by-the-internet” trees at the base of the hill at the festival.

Picking up leaves.

She’s her mama’s daughter, and LOVES fall, and picking up every pretty maple leaf she sees:

Showing off her leaves.

And sometimes she even gives them to me :)

My new Ravelry button, with a leaf from M.

We took advantage of those lovely benches on the hill to take FO photos of TWO new projects, both of which are for M and both of which I’d finished on the 5 hour drive down to Rhinebeck (the drive, by the way, is insanely gorgeous this time of year!). Here’s a closeup of the octopus buttons (picked out by M), which I sewed onto her cardigan in the car:

Octopus button closeup.

And the whole sweater, for good measure:

Showing off for the camera :) #rhinebeck2015 #latergram

I’m working on the pattern (for both the kid and grown-up versions) for that cardigan, and hope to send it off to test-knitters SOON! (I’m also finalizing the pattern for her hat & mitten set, and that also should be coming soon!). M loved being able to wear matching sweaters again – but as she noted, we weren’t TRULY matching, because I hadn’t knit her a rainbow shawl of her very own yet ;)

It was a bit too blustery to manage taking photos of the Mitered Crosses blanket all by myself:

A bit blustery for blanket photos!

But thankfully I had a helper, in the form of the blanket’s grateful recipient:

Much easier to show off the blanket with an assistant! M is pretty stoked about her blanket!

I didn’t do much shopping at Rhinebeck – that’s never really why I go, but it is especially hard when I have M with me, because staying too long in one place (unless it’s in front of the pan-flute band!) tends to trigger a meltdown. My one yarn purchase this year was a pair of Bartlettyarns Swirls packs, one in blues for me and one in purples for M. I didn’t take pictures of them (I’ll take some later), but I do have plans for them! Alas, that purchase resulted in a mega-meltdown outside Building B. My only other purchases were the pan-flute for M, and a t-shirt for her, too (I adored the design for this year, and next year’s looks neat, too). I think that some amount of shopping will be easier next year, when she is a little more mature and not using the stroller anymore (at least, I hope not – that poor thing is really wearing out from all the miles we’ve put on it!).

But what I really go to Rhinebeck for isn’t the shopping – it’s the people. I was so, so happy to get to meet up with my dear friend Mick!

Me and Mick! We've been blog buddies FOREVER (ok, since 2006, but that's almost the same thing!) but Saturday was the first time we've been able to meet up in person. I love this lady!

We’ve been blog-buddies FOREVER (ok, since 2006, but that’s almost the same thing!), and in her, I’ve found such a wonderful kindred spirit. These days, we probably chat more about teaching writing than about knitting! I’m just so glad to have Mick in my life. Our Rhinebeck hug was YEARS in the making! I saw so many other wonderful friends at Rhinebeck (though neglected to document any of those meetups with photos), and missed running into just as many…it’s hard to do meet-ups with the kiddo!

We end our Rhinebeck trip each year with a visit to the Walkway Over the Hudson…the view is just AMAZING!

Looking up the Hudson.

M wasn’t incredibly cooperative about taking pictures on the Walkway this year…

Someone (well, OK, three someones) didn't get enough sleep on this trip and needed LOTS of snuggles.

…so we didn’t really get to recreate the “mama holding M on the Walkway” shots of previous years; this is the best we got!

At least one of us is smiling at the camera!

At least one of us was smiling for the camera! Goodbye, Hudson River Valley – it’s a privilege to get to visit each year!

Saying goodbye to the Hudson River Valley.

I’ll be writing a guest post this week on Knittin’ Little about Rhinebeck with littles, and will have more photos of some of the kid-specific stuff we did while at the festival, so be on the lookout for that!

inviting spontaneity on a pesky day off school

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Tubular bind-off for the shawl collar on M's cardigan.
Tubular bind-off at the playground

I spent yesterday at home with M, since she didn’t have school. Well, I say “at home”, but really, we spent as much of the day outside as possible! The weather was amazing. I was feeling a bit (ok, more than a bit) overwhelmed, between the work I need to catch up on for the classes and workshops I’m teaching, and the knitting that I need to get done before Rhinebeck, and had been resenting the fact that I had to stay home with her when I was so busy. But I decided yesterday morning that I would treat this day I’d been dreading as a sort of spiritual exercise (our theme this month at First Unitarian is “Letting Go”, which is a skill I definitely need to practice!), and follow M’s whims as much as possible. We don’t actually get to have very much undirected time together during the school year – our schedules just don’t have very much “give” to them. For all the talk of how “flexible” academic jobs are, well…I suppose they are in their own way, but realistically my job during the semester is probably more than full time (given all of the time I need to spend outside of class time giving feedback and prepping and whatnot), and the times when I have to be IN the classroom (either my own, or a class where I’m running a workshop) or in meetings are anything BUT flexible! So spontaneity isn’t a big part of my life right now.

We started the morning with “letter work” – M has very suddenly become obsessed with learning to write, and has been asking me to help her spell specific words. The lists of words she wants to spell are so charming and fascinating to me – yesterday, it was “DUCK”, “MONSTER”, “GOOD”, “BEAUTIFUL”, “PERFECT”, “GREAT”, and “TREE”.

Practicing letters! (Not sure why she wanted to write "duck monster", but it's awesome!)

She is so, so excited about being able to write things that I can read. Even if they’re kind of random letter strings…she gets a kick out of me pronouncing them to her! She used to just write zigzags on things when she wanted to “write”, but yesterday she said to me very excitedly, “mama, now I don’t have to write zigzags on everything, I can write LETTERS!” Yes, kiddo, yes you can! And because I’m a huge nerd/linguist/writing teacher, we had a little talk about how shared knowledge is necessary for communication, and that’s why she can’t just use “her U” (her first attempt looked more like a Q, oddly) to write “DUCK”, because it’s not the “U” that we all share and recognize as “U”. And now I think I need to dig out my Alice in Wonderland book and read to her about Humpty Dumpty and his words that mean whatever he wants them to mean :)

Then we watched a Reading Rainbow episode together, and in it, they mentioned having a picnic, which led M to request (for probably the 100th time) a “picnic at the beach”. We’ve never actually been able to make it happen, due to the aforementioned busy schedules, but I had the glorious realization yesterday that…hey, we actually COULD! It was delightful (but also a bit disorienting – I am not generally a person who handles unplanned activities with grace) to be able to say “YES” to something like that! We took our little PlanetBoxes up to the beach and had our lunches with the lovely view of Lake Ontario in the background.

Lunchtime view.

I love how easy the PlanetBoxes made this – we just opened them up on top of our beach towels and had everything we needed. Seriously, I know I probably sound like an informercial here and I know PlanetBoxes are a bit pricey but they are absolutely the BEST reusable lunchboxes I’ve ever found, and I’m so glad that M and I both have them now.

Beach picnic! She's been asking for one for ages and today it's actually possible, so here we are.

It was a wonderful day for soaking in the sunlight – we probably won’t have another day this warm and sunny for 6 months!

Soaking in the sun. Probably the last day like this we'll have for 6 months!

I’m not gonna lie – I’m so unused to spontaneity that I had this nagging sense of “I’m not supposed to be here, this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing” the whole time we were at the beach. Like I was going to get “caught” going off-plan, or something! As I said, I’m definitely a person who needs some practice at letting go of plans and schedules.

After the beach, we headed to the playground, where (after pushing her in the swings for probably 40 minutes straight!) I took advantage of M’s brief period of willingness to play without me to work on the tubular bind-off for her garter-rib cardigan (pictured at the top of this post). She checked in with me a few times, always with a beaming smile.

Happy girl at the playground!

I’d started the shawl collar on Sunday, and holy moly shawl collars have a lot of stitches! And the kitchener-based bind-off isn’t the easiest one to do “on the move”, but I did make some good progress at the playground. And I got to finish the bind-off (and knit 2 pockets!) at Knitting Guild in the evening, so now I’ve just got to kitchener the underarms, sew on the pockets, and weave in the ends before I block it. I want to block it on Wednesday night so that I’m sure it’ll be dry for us to pack up and bring down to Rhinebeck – I’m sure I can sew on buttons in the car if I need to.

We followed up our playground time with baking – she helped me make the dough for the loaves of bread we’re baking for the teachers’ lunch at her school (it’s her classroom’s turn to provide the meal), and then helped me make apple cake with some of the apples, but I managed to leave out ALL of the sugar, which made the dough very stiff and nearly unworkable. I’m told it actually tastes ok (I didn’t get a chance to eat any before Guild), but we both had a good laugh about mama leaving the sugar out of cake! I really do enjoy baking with M, when we’re not under time pressure. I’m not sure how to put more “give” into our lives (and I’m definitely not going to ask for more days where M doesn’t have school during my teaching semesters!), but I do think that yesterday showed me how much fun M and I can have together when we’re not beholden to a particular plan or schedule. A worthy exercise. (And now I must return to workworkwork.)

oh, October, i love you.

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I love October, y'all.

This weekend, you guys. The weather. It’s been glorious, in the way that only mid-October weather can be. And what better thing to do on a glorious October weekend than go apple picking?

Strong girl!

M showed off her strength, and the same sweater and hat ensemble she wore at Rhinebeck last year, carrying around a full bucket of apples she helped pick.

Teamwork!

We made a good team once the bucket got TOO heavy. Gosh, I can’t get over how long M’s hair has gotten! She’s looking so grown-up now.

Maddy got a pumpkin of her own. She's looking forward to decorating it!

She was very excited to find pumpkins that were small enough for her to carry!

A girl and her pumpkin.

The one she found even had a stem that was shaped like a little handle. We ended up getting two…

A pumpkin!

…and M is very excited to decorate them for Halloween. On that note, I’d best get cracking on her costume – she wants to be an octopus, and I’ve been playing around with ideas of how to make her a sort of hooded “poncho” with tentacles like she wants. Given that my sewing machine is currently on the fritz, I think I’ll be hand-stitching, which I’m actually more comfortable with compared to machine-sewing, but it’s SLOW, and October’s almost half over!

But before that, there’s Rhinebeck – and oh boy, do I have my work cut out for me on that front. I’ve given up hope of finishing my Stripes! cardigan (I figure I’ve knit 3 shawls this year, so if I don’t have a new sweater to show off, so be it!), but am aiming to finish M’s (bigger) garter rib cardigan, and to (finally) sew up the squares for the Mitered Crosses blanket. I’ve been knitting away on the shawl collar/buttonband this weekend, and blocking pairs of squares, too. M’s been helping me with the latter, and it’s so adorable – she’s now talking about taking her baby to “pretend sheep and wool festival” and “teaching” her baby how to “pin out” squares of construction paper…I’m definitely raising a knitter, here! I had photos I wanted to share of the sweater-in-progress and blocked squares, but I took them with my real camera instead of my phone, and they are now trapped in the disaster that is Photos on Mac and I maybe had a bit of a meltdown trying to get them out so that I could post them, somehow, but it turns out no amount of tears or swearing at the computer would actually fix it. Who knew? I’m planning to take real-camera photos at Rhinebeck, so I sure hope I can figure out how to get them to Flickr without going through Photos. (The new “improved” Flickr Uploader has also led to a fair amout of tears and swearing…goodness, all these “improvements” lately have just made photography and blogging, things that should be fun and not that time-consuming, into Sisyphean tasks. I feel like half the computers in my life have become nearly-useless this semester and it’s maddening!)

things i make for maddy (but wish i could keep for myself!): a hat

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I wanna keep it for me!

Yesterday, I finished the 2×2 rib hat that I’ve been knitting from the leftover yarn from the very first hat I ever made for M, back when she was still known only as “the munchkin”. For those who are interested, I cast on 164 stitches on size 2 needles using a sport/heavy sock weight yarn, and knit for 10 inches, and then decreased in a manner that I kind of made up on the fly but it looks ok, so whatever!

Top of the hat. Not 100% sure if I love the way I decreased but it worked, so whatever.

I’d cast on intending it for M, but 2×2 is so very stretchy, and it fit me so nicely, so I thought maybe, maybe she’d let me keep it for myself, if I plied her with yarn she’d previously squealed with joy over, in the Knitpicks catalog (Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in “Turkish Delight”), and promised to knit her a 2×2 ribbed hat from it.

We'll find out tonight whether M wants this hot pink yarn to be a hat or socks.

But alas, my ploy did not work. Yesterday was the Equinox, and I put both the hat and the skein of yarn in M’s gift bag. We do a “Something to Do, Something to Wear, Something to Read” system for our seasonal gift giving, and she was also receiving a really cool dominoes set from Hape (“To Do”), the book “Rosie Revere, Engineer” (“To Read”, obviously!), and a kid-sized baby carrier so that she could wear her baby doll (“To Wear”). I figured that since the “To Wear” part of the gift wasn’t clothes, the hat and skein could go along with it. ANYWAY, I told M that I would very much like to exchange with her, and keep the hat but knit her a pink hat with the skein of yarn I’d bought just for her, to which she replied, “No, mama, you knit the hat for me, and I want the pink yarn to be SOCKS.” Oh, dear child, I’m glad you are not afraid to assert your wishes clearly, and I love you, so it’s yours…the hat, AND the yarn, which I will turn into socks for you.

Finished hat (in time for Equinox celebrations!), plus the skein through which I hope to "purchase" said hat from M :)

I can’t complain too much – at least I have a recipient who passionately loves the things I knit for her!